ational Endowment for the Arts
THE POETRY OF
'Permanent things, or
things forever renewed,
like the grass and
human passions, are the
material for poetry ..."
from his essay "Poetry, Gongorism
and a Thousand Years" (1948)
The poetry of Robinson Jeffers is emotionally direct, magnificently musical,
and philosophically profound. No one has ever written more powerfully
about the natural beauty of the American West Determined to write a
truthful poetry purged of ephemeral things, Jeffers cultivated a style at once
lyrical, tough-minded, and timeless.
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Great literature combines enlightenment with enchantment. It awakens
our imagination and enlarges our humanity. It can even offer harrowing
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The Big Read.
National Endowment for the Arts
Robinson Jeffers, 1948
The extraordinary patience of things!
This beautiful place defaced with a crop of suburban houses —
How beautiful when we first beheld it,
Unbroken field of poppy and lupin walled with clean cliffs;
No intrusion but two or three horses pasturing,
Or a few milch cows rubbing their flanks on the outcrop rock-heads-
Now the spoiler has come: does it care?
Not faintly. It has all time. It knows the people are a tide
That swells and in time will ebb, and all
Their works dissolve. Meanwhile the image of the pristine beauty
Lives in the very grain of the granite,
Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff. — As for us:
We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;
We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.
Introduction to Jeffers's Poetry
BY DANA GIOIA
The poetry of Robinson Jeffers is
distractingly memorable, not only
for its strong music, but also for
the hard edge of its wisdom. His
verse, especially the wild, expansive
narratives that made him famous
in the 1920s, does not fit into the
conventional definitions of modern
American poetry. Scarcely stirring
from Carmel, California, Jeffers
wrote about ideas: big, naked,
howling ideas that no reader can
miss. The directness and clarity of
Jeffers's style reflects the priority
he put on communicating his
He challenged scientists on their
own territory. Unlike most writers,
he had studied science seriously
in college and graduate school.
He accepted the destruction of
anthropocentric values explicit
in current biology, geology, and
physics. Jeffers concentrated on
articulating the moral, philosophical,
and imaginative implications of
those discoveries. He struggled to
answer the questions that science
had been able only to ask: What
are man's responsibilities in a
world not made solely for him?
How does humankind lead a good
and meaningful life without a
Standing apart from the world, he
passed dispassionate judgment on
his race and civilization, and he
found them wanting. Pointing out
some grievous contradictions at the
core of Western industrial society
earned Jeffers a reputation as a bitter
misanthrope (he sometimes was)
but this verdict hardly invalidates
the essential accuracy of his
message. He saw the pollution of
the environment, the destruction
of other species, the squandering
of natural resources, the recurrent
urge to war, and the violent squalor
of cities as the inevitable result of a
species out of harmony with its own
What saves Jeffers's poetry from
unrelieved bitterness and nihilism is
its joyful awe and indeed religious
devotion to the natural world.
Living on the edge of the Pacific,
he found wisdom, strength, and
perspective from observing the forces
of nature around him. Magnificent,
troubling, idiosyncratic, and uneven,
Jeffers remains the great prophetic
voice of American modernism.
National Endowment for the Arts • THE BIG READ 3
Robinson Jeffers, 1887-1962
BY DANA GIOIA
John Robinson Jeffers, the great
poet of the American West
Coast, was born in the suburbs
of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His
father, William Hamilton Jeffers,
was a professor of Old Testament
Biblical Theology and a Presbyterian
minister. A strict disciplinarian and
serious intellectual, the elder Jeffers
gave his son rigorous private lessons
in Greek, Latin, and religion. By
the time he was twelve, Jeffers was
also fluent in French and German
(learned during his schooling in
Switzerland), but awkward among
other children. Not surprisingly,
the boy developed complex feelings
toward his deeply loving but
Jeffers entered the University of
Pittsburgh at fifteen. When his
father retired the next year, the
family moved to Los Angeles and
Jeffers transferred to Occidental
College, from which he graduated
in 1905 at the age of eighteen. The
precocious teenager did graduate
work at several universities, studying
literature, medicine, and forestry
before realizing poetry was his
At the University of Southern
California, Jeffers met Una Call
Kuster, a beautiful woman who was
not only two years older than he, but
married to a wealthy local attorney.
Robinson and Una fell irrevocably in
love. After seven years of guilt-ridden
romance with many renunciations,
separations, reconciliations, and
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF ROBINSON JEFFERS
John Robinson Jeffers is born
near Pittsburgh, 1887.
Publicity from the Southern
Pacific railroad company
promises unique natural beauty
and economic prosperity in
Unprecedented drop in U.S.
gold supply causes a three-year
nationwide depression, 1893.
Scottish immigrant John Muir
publishes The Mountains of
California as part of his ongoing
effort to preserve the sublime
Califomian landscape from the
ravages of industry, 1894.
Beginning of the Spanish-
American War, 1898.
Jeffers with his parents, 1 893
Jeffers as a
takes office as U.S.
Jack London's The
Call of the Wild
Jeffers graduates from Occidental
An earthquake registering 8.3 on
the Richter scale wreaks havoc
across the San Francisco Bay
"She is more like a woman in a Scotch ballad,
passionate, untamed and rather heroic — or like a
falcon — than like any ordinary person."
v referring to his wife, Una, in his forward to
The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers (1938)
eventually a public scandal, Una
obtained a divorce on August 1,
1913. The next day she and Jeffers
married. They traveled north to
the wild Big Sur region of coastal
California and rented a small cabin
in the village of Carmel-by-the-
Sea, which they recognized as their
The twenty-seven-year-old poet
knew that he had not yet written
anything of enduring value, despite
the publication of his first book,
Flagons and Apples (1912). The
death of both Jeffers's father and
his own newborn daughter in 1914
heightened his sense of mortality.
After issuing a second
(1916), Jeffers published
nothing for eight years. He
divided his time between
writing and building a
house for his family —
which now included
twin sons Donnan and
Garth — on a promontory
overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
In 1 924 Jeffers published Tamar
and Other Poems with a small
press in New York. It attracted
no initial notice, but a year later
it was suddenly taken up by
several influential critics. Jeffers
Jeffers with his
sons, Donnan and
Garth, c. 1922
Jeffers's first book, Flagons
and Apples, is published, 1912;
Jeffers marries Una Call Kuster,
World War I erupts in Europe,
1 91 4; America enters in 1 91 7.
Armistice signed November 1 1 ,
1918, ending World War I. The
Treaty of Versailles is signed
the following year by President
Woodrow Wilson, 1919.
Southern California experiences
an oil boom and a population
surge, leaving Los Angeles the
most motorized city in the USA.
Jeffers's acclaimed collection,
Roan Stallion, Tamar and Other
Poems, is published, 1925.
Charles Lindbergh makes history
by flying solo across the Atlantic
Jeffers publishes several
collections of poetry.
Due to the Great Depression,
unemployment in California hits
28 percent, 1932.
John Steinbeck's To a God
Unknown is published, a novel
influenced by Jeffers, 1933.
Adolf Hitler's Germany invades
Poland, beginning World War II in
National Endowment for the Arts • THE BIG READ 5
produced an expanded trade
edition containing what would be
his most famous narrative poem,
"Roan Stallion." Both public and
critical opinion were extraordinary.
Roan Stallion, Tamar and Other
Poems (1925) went into multiple
reprintings. Critics compared him
to Sophocles and Shakespeare, but
Jeffers ignored his sudden celebrity
and focused on his work. Over
the next ten years he wrote the
most remarkable, ambitious, and
odd series of narrative poems in
American literature, published in
eight major collections.
By World War II, Jeffers's critical
reputation had collapsed and would
not rise again until after his death.
In 1945, however, the noted actress
Judith Anderson asked the poet
to translate and adapt Euripides's
classical tragedy Medea for the
modern stage. When Jeffers's Medea
opened on Broadway in 1947, it
stunned audiences and critics with
its power and intensity.
Medea 's success relieved Jeffers's
financial worries, but the happiest
days of his life were now behind
him. After Una's slow death from
cancer in 1950, he withdrew further
from the world. Jeffers published
only one book during the last
fourteen years of his life, Hungerfield
and Other Poems (1954). But even as
his eyesight failed, he never stopped
writing. A few days after his seventy-
fifth birthday, he died in his sleep at
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF ROBINSON JEFFERS
The Japanese attack on Pearl
Harbor brings the U.S. into World
The war ends after claiming
upwards of fifty million lives
worldwide, 1 945.
Jeffers's translation of Euripides's
Medea opens on Broadway to
critical acclaim, 1947.
George Orwell's 1984 published,
Senator Joseph McCarthy
brandishes a list of alleged
communists in the State
Department, heralding the dawn
of the Cold War, 1950.
Ansel Adams and other artists
found Aperture magazine,
dedicated to the art and
technique of photography, 1952.
Hungerfield and Other Poems
6 THE BIG READ • National Endowment for the Arts
John F. Kennedy takes office as
U.S. President; construction of the
Berlin Wall begins, 1961.
Jeffers dies at Tor House on
January 20, 1962.
The Beginning and the End
and Other Poems is published
posthumously as Jeffers's final
Jeffers posed for this
photograph in 1 958
when he won the
Academy of American
"If you should look for this place
after a handful of lifetimes:
Perhaps of my planted forest a few
May stand yet, dark-leaved Australians or the
coast cypress, haggard
With storm-drift; but fire and the axe are devils.
Look for foundations of sea-worn granite, my
fingers had the art
To make stone love stone, you will find some
remnant. . . ."
from his poem "Tor House"
National Endowment for the Arts • THE BIG READ 7
hoped to live in England for a while.
Before they could finalize their
plans, however, World War I began
in Europe and they were forced
to remain in America. Seeking a
coastal village where they could live
a simple, quiet life, they decided to
visit Carmel. California.
letters had traveled widely in Europe
and America, but Carmel and the
Big Sur coast were different from
an}' place he had ever been. "For
the first time in my life," he later
wrote of this first encounter. "I
could see people living — amid
magnificent unspoiled scenery —
essentially as they did in the
Idyls or the Sagas, or in Homer's
Here was life purged of
emeral accretions. Men
were riding after cattle, or plowing
the headland, hovered by white
sea-gulls, as they have done for
mousandsof years, and will for
thousands of years to come. Here
was contemporary life that was also
permanent life. ..."
During the next few years, Jeffers
hiked the nearby mountains,
explored the seacoast, and listened
to the stories of people who lived
there. He began to feel a profound
connection to the landscape. In
1919, when he and Una built Tor
House, his feeling of kinship with
the land deepened By 1925, when
he completed Hawk Tower, Jeffers
and Carmel were one.
8 THE BIG READ • National Endowment for the Arts
"Jeffers Country" extends along
the Monterey County coastline
from Point Pinos in the north
to Lucia and beyond in the
south. This stretch of central
California includes the Santa
Lucia mountains, the Ventana
wilderness, and Los Padres
National Forest, as well as the
rugged canyons and steep cliffs of
the incomparable Big Sur. Native
Americans inhabited the area for
hundreds of years before Father
Jumpero Serra built a mission
there in 1771 and before a
scattering of settlers arrived — a
situation Jeffers alludes to in such
poems as "Hands."
By Jeffers's time, the city of
Monterey was well established
and the small village of Carmel
was growing, but the area was
mosdy wild. "It is not possible to be
quite sane here," Jeffers said of the
dramatic landscape. Like the local
cypresses bent and twisted by the
relentless ocean wind, some of the
area's people led tortured lives —
especially those who lived in remote
canyons or in isolated cabins within
sighnind sound of the sea.
Like his contemporary John
Steinbeck, RobinsoTl Jeffers
set much of his work against a
California backdrop. Through
his haunting lyrics and dramatic
narrative poems, Jeffers captures the
energy and beauty of a landscape
he called "the noblest thing I have
'When the stage-coach topped the hill from
Monterey, and we looked down through pines
and sea-fogs on Carmel Bay, it was evident
that we had come without knowing it to our
fhen he and his wife first arrived in Carmel, California
National Endowment for the Arts • THE BIG READ 9
Tor House and Hawk Tower
Tor House derives its name from
the rocky hill (called a "tor" in
Gaelic) upon which the house is
built. One of the rock outcroppings
serves as a cornerstone and is
celebrated in the poem "To the
Rock That Will Be a Cornerstone
of the House." Jeffers named Hawk
The inscription "URJ" above the
entrance to Hawk Tower
Tower for the hawk that would visit
him daily while he worked.
Local contractor M.J. Murphy
built the west wing of Tor House
(1918-1919); Jeffers's son Donnan
completed the east wing in 1957. In
the intervening years, after spending
mornings writing in the attic by
the window looking outward to
the mountains, Jeffers labored
afternoons to make the other
stone structures that comprise the
buildings collectively known as Tor
House: a stone wall and a detached
garage (1919-1920), the latter
converted to a kitchen in 1954;
Hawk Tower (1920-1924);
a dining room (1926-1930); and
the first floor of the east wing
(begun in 1937).
Jeffers gathered the granite stones,
which he called "the primitive
rock" — more than 80-million-year-
old Santa Lucia granite — from the
shoreline below Tor House, "each
stone / Baptized from that abysmal
font" ("To the House"). He rolled
the stones up from the sea, some of
them weighing close to 400 pounds.
Working alone, Jeffers built the
forty-foot high Hawk Tower for
Una. As his hands worked with
stone, his mind worked on the
poetry he would write the next
In addition to the exceptional
stonemasonry — the beautiful
Roman arch of the original garage,
the flat arches of the north-facing
windows of the dining room,
the hidden passageway of Hawk
Tower — the house and tower are
notable for the artifacts that Jeffers
embedded in the walls. These
include pre-Colombian terra cotta
heads from Mexico and small
10 THE BIG READ " National Endowment for the Arts
This sundial sits in the garden of
Tor House, near Hawk Tower.
The inscription reads: "Life is but
tesserae from the Baths of Caracalla
in Rome. He painted mottoes and
verses on some walls, house beams,
and furniture. The house did have
running water, but lacked electricity
or telephones. In and around the
property, Jeffers planted some two
Taken together, the poetry inspired
by Tor House, the stonemasonry,
the artifacts, the mottoes, and verses
make the house and tower a living
monument to one of America's
"I built her a tower when
I was young —
Sometime she will die —
I built it with my hands,
Stones in the sky . . ."
from his poem "For Una"
lieve that the universe
is one being, all its parts are
different expressions of the
same energy, and they are all in
communication with each other,
influencing each other, therefore
parts of one organic whole.
(This is physics, I believe, as well
as religion.) The parts change
and pass, or die, people and
races and rocks and stars; none
of them seems to me important
in itself, but only the whole.
This whole is in all its parts so
beautiful, and is felt by me to
be so intensely in earnest, that I
am compelled to love it, and to
think of it as divine. It seems
to me that this whole alone is
worthy of the deeper sort of
love; and that there is peace,
freedom, I might say a kind
of salvation, in turning one's
affection outward toward this
one God, rather than inward
on one's self, or on humanity,
or on human imagination and
abstractions — the world of
I think that it is our privilege
and felicity to love God for
his beauty, without claiming
or expecting love from him.
We are not important to
him, but he to u
in a letter to Sister Mary Jane
lent for the Arts • THE BIG READ | |
During Jeffers's life, the
controversies about his narrative
poems unfortunatelv overshadowed
the shorter works tucked into the
back pages of each new book.
These lyric meditations — often
autobiographical and generally
written in long, rhythmic free- verse
lines — marked a new kind of nature
poem that tried to understand the
physical world not from a human
perspective but on its own terms.
He rejected rhyme and traditional
meter, which inhibited him from
telling a story flexiblv in verse.
Disclaiming the example of Walt
\C nitman, Jeffers preferred — as
scholar .Albert Gelpi explains — "to
see the long verses of the Hebrew
prophets and psalmists in the King
James translation or the hexameters
of Homer and Aeschylus as more
kindred analogues and sources/'
To say that Jeffers's chief
imaginative gifts were scope,
simplicity, narrative poise, and
moral seriousness makes him seem
closer to a distinguished jurist
than a great poet. But there was
something of the judge about Jeffers,
particularly the Old Testament
variety. In such poems as "Shine,
Perishing Republic," Jeffers warns
Robinson Jeffers, 1948
corrupt humanity against the evils
of war and violence. His belief that
mankind is not the center of the
universe is expressed in poems like
"Credo": "The beauty of things
was born before eyes and sufficient
to itself; the heart-breaking
beauty / Will remain when there
is no heart to break for it." When
he is gone, he prays — in the poem
"Granddaughter" — that his beloved
little Una "will find / Powerful
protection and a man like a hawk to
Although Jeffers knew that he and
his sons would die and that the
world as they knew it would change,
he predicted that "this rock will be
| 2 THE BIG READ " National Endowment for the Arts
here, grave, earnest, / not passive"
in his poem "Oh Lovely Rock."
As Jeffers believed, man might be
"nature dreaming," but through
hawks, stones, and the ocean, "The
Beauty of Things" will endure:
"to feel / Gready, and understand
gready, and express gready, the
natural / Beauty, is the sole business
While Jeffers devoted considerable
attention to the lyric form
throughout his career, his decision
to write narrative poetry led him to
the epic tradition and verse drama.
From 1925 to 1954, Jeffers wrote
the most stunning, ambitious, and
stylistically diverse series of narrative
poems in American literature.
Originally published in fourteen
major collections, these books add
up to more than fifteen thousand
pages of verse.
Jeffers's epic-length poems such as
Tamar, The Women at Point Sur,
Cawdor, Thurso s Landing, and The
Loving Shepherdess told the mostly
tragic stories of men and women
who lived on the Big Sur coast of
California. His verse dramas such
as The Tower Beyond Tragedy, Dear
Judas, At the Beginning of an Age,
Medea, and The Cretan Woman
turned to ancient Greece, the Bible,
and medieval Europe for inspiration.
In both instances, Jeffers used
traditional genres, subjects, and
themes to interrogate the Western
tradition as a whole and to
illuminate modern life.
His concern with the latter
compelled him to look closely
at American culture and the
surrounding world. He was usually
repelled by what he saw. Identifying
"cruelty and filth and superstition"
as the three banes of humankind,
Jeffers lashed out at the horrific
violence of the two World Wars, at
the pollution destroying wildlife and
ruining natural environments, and at
the political and religious fanaticism
darkening the minds of millions.
Almost immediately Jeffers's long
narrative poems divided audiences.
Violent, sexual, philosophical,
and subversive, these verse novels
are alternately magnificent and
hyperbolic, powerful and excessive,
dramatic and overblown, and unlike
anything else in modernist American
National Endowment for the Arts • THE BIG READ | 3
Jeffers and American Culture
In a culture where many believe
that "poetry makes nothing
happen," Jeffers remains strangely
influential among both artists
conservationists consider him
an influential figure in the
movement to protect natural
habitat, wilderness, and coastal
land. Guided by Ansel Adams,
The Sierra Club's lavish folio
Not Man Apart: Photographs of the
Big Sur Coast combined lines from
Jeffers's poetry with photographs in
a work that helped focus political
efforts to preserve that spectacular
stretch of California coasdine.
Poet Robert Hass calls Jeffers an
"early environmentalist," as he was
"perhaps the first American poet to
grasp the devastating extent of the
changes human technologies and
populations were wreaking on the
rest of the earth's biological life."
Jeffers thoroughly understood and
embraced the scientific worldview
of his time. Indeed, the physicist
Freeman Dyson, writing in The
New York Review of Books in 1995,
compares Jeffers to Einstein and
says, "He expressed better than any
other poet the scientist's vision."
Top, playbill of Jeffers's Medea, c. 1948;
middle, Jeffers on the cover of Time
magazine, 1 948; bottom, the 1 973 Beach
Boys album Holland features "The Beaks of
Eagles," after the Jeffers poem.
Astronomers and geologists remain
interested in his work.
Jeffers's poetry inspired two
original and seminal Californian
photographers: Ansel Adams and
Edward Weston. Throughout his
life, Ansel Adams was particularly
inspired by Jeffers: "I am going to
do my best to call attention to the
simplicities of environment and
method; to 'the enormous beauty of
| 4 THE BIG READ " National Endowment for the Arts
the world,' as Jeffers writes." Morley
Baer, another important California
photographer, read Jeffers's poems
as a college student and many years
later claimed, "Jeffers helped me see
and sense the coast of California
as a place of great tensions, great
natural tensions that are part of
life and not to be subdued and
Many musicians have been
inspired by Jeffers's poetry — from
jazz musician Walter Tolleson to
UCLA geophysics professor Peter
Bird. Composer Alva Henderson's
first opera, Medea — after Jeffers's
adaptation — was originally
performed by the San Diego Opera.
Even the California-born Beach
Boys were inspired to write a song
after Jeffers's poem "The Beaks of
Eagles," which originally appeared
on their 1973 album Holland.
Jeffers's great triumph is that
now — more than seventy-five years
after his radical poetic voice first
sounded — his poetry retains its
power to inspire and disturb.
Robinson Jeffers studied literature,
philosophy, medicine, and forestry
in graduate school. How do these
four areas of study inform the
subject matter and style of Jeffers's
Jeffers and his wife, Una,
discovered the coast of Carmel to
be their "inevitable place." How
does this landscape inform his
poetry? Where is your "inevitable
What parallels can you imagine
between the building of a stone
house and the writing of a poem?
Can you find examples of this
parallel in Jeffers's poetry?
Many mammals and birds —
especially the red-tailed hawk and
the falcon — appear in Jeffers's
poetry. While his allusions to
animals are certainly literal, what
symbolic possibilities exist in
poems such as "Rock and Hawk"
or "Hurt Hawks"?
In his poem "Carmel Point,"
Jeffers declares that "people are
a tide / That swells and in time
will ebb, and all / Their works
dissolve." How poignant is the
parallel Jeffers makes between the
human race and the tide?
National Endowment for the Arts • THE BIG READ | 5
The Poetry of Robinson Jeffers
There are four paperback
anthologies containing selected
poetry of Robinson Jeffers, two
published by Stanford University
Press. The Wild God of the World:
An Anthology of Robinson Jeffers,
edited by Albert Gelpi, also
contains the long poem "Cawdor"
(2003). Tim Hunt edited a longer
anthology, The Selected Poetry
of Robinson Jeffers, in 200 1 . The
Collected Poetiy of Robinson Jeffers,
also edited by Hunt, is a five-volume
collection published between 1988
All poetry cited in this Reader's
Guide is available with the Poetry
Foundation's poetry tool:
The Plays of Robinson Jeffers
The Cretan Woman. First produced
The Tower Beyond Tragedy. First
produced in November 1950.
Medea. New York: Random House,
1946. Reprinted with "Cawdor."
New York: New Directions, 1970.
First produced in October 1947.
In 1973, the United States Postal
Service issued this stamp in honor
of Robinson Jeffers.
Selected Books about Jeffers
and His Poetry
Greenan, Edith. Of Una Jeffers:
A Memoir. Ed. James Karman.
Ashland, OR: Story Line Press,
Karman, James. Robinson Jeffers:
Poet of California. Rev. ed. Ashland,
OR: Story Line Press, 2001.
Karman, James, ed. Stones of the
Sur: Poetry by Robinson Jeffers,
Photographs by Morley Baer.
Stanford, CA: Stanford University
Zaller, Robert, ed. Centennial Essays
for Robinson Jeffers. Newark, DE:
University of Delaware Press, 1991.
| 6 THE BIG READ • National Endowment for the Arts
The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to
supporting excellence in the arts — both new and established — bringing the
arts to all Americans, and providing leadership in arts education. Established
national by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the
endowment Endowment is the nation's largest annual hinder of the arts, bringing great art
to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases.
A great nation
deserves great art
The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent
literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture.
It has embarked on an ambitious plan to bring the best poetry before the largest
Gioia, Dana. Can Poetry Matter?: Essays on Poetry arid American Culture. St. Paul, MN: Graywolf Press, 1991.
Gioia, Dana, Chryss Yost, and Jack Hicks, eds. California Poetry: From the Gold Rush to the Present. Berkeley, CA
Heyday Books, 2004.
Gioia, Dana, David Mason, Meg Schoerke, eds. Twentieth-Century American Poetics: Poets on the Art of Poetry. New
York McGraw Hill, 2004.
Jeffers, Robinson. The Collected Poetry of Robinson J effers, edited by Tim Hunt, Vols. 1-5. Stanford, CA Stanford
University Press, 1988-2001.
. The Collected Letters of Robinson f effers with Selected Letters of Una Jeffers, edited by James Karman (forthcoming,
Stanford University Press).
. The Wild God of the World: An Anthology of Robinson] effers. Ed. Albert Gelpi. Stanford, CA Stanford University
Robinson Jeffers, "Carmel Point" and excerpts from "Tor House," "For Una," "De Rerum Virtute" and "The Beauty of
Things," from The Selected Poetry of Robinson f effers. Copyright 1935 and © 1963 by Donnan Jeffers and Garth Jeffers.
Used by permission of Random House, Inc.
David Kipen, NEA Director of Literature, National Reading Initiatives
Writers: Dana Gioia and Erika Koss for the National Endowment for the Arts. "Tor House and Hawk Tower" by Elliot
Ruchowitz-Roberts; "Jeffers and California" by James Karman.
Series Editor: Erika Koss for the National Endowment for the Arts
Image Editor: Dan Brady for the National Endowment for the Arts
Graphic Design: Fletcher Design/Washington, DC
Special thanks to Alex Vardamis and Joan Hendrickson of the Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation.
Cover Portrait; John Sherffius for The Big Read. Inside Front Coven Photo by Nat Farbman/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images. Page 1:
Dana Gioia, image by Vance Jacobs; photo of John Barr courtesy of the Poetry Foundation. Page 2: © Greg Probst/ Corbis. Pages 4—6:
Photos of Jeffers with his mother and father, with his sons, and as an older man are courtesy of the Tor House Foundation; photo of Jeffers
as a young man and photo of Una Jeffers by Nat Farbman/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images. Page 7: Photo by Horace Lyon, courtesy of
the Tor House Foundation. Pages 8—11: Photos by Erika Koss, used with permission. Page 12: Photo by Nat Farbman/Time Life Pictures/
Getty Images. Page 14: Playbill courtesy of the Tor House Foundation; magazine cover courtesy of Time Life Pictures/Getty Images;
Holland album cover, from the LP collection of Gareth Davies-Morris, used with permission. Page 16: "Robinson Jeffers Stamp" image
reprinted with permission of the United States Postal Service. All Rights Reserved.
This publication is published by:
National Endowment for the Arts • 1 100 Pennsvlvania Avenue, N.W. • Washington, DC 20506-0001
(202) 682-5400 • www.nea.gov
"One light is left us: the beauty of
things, not men;
The immense beauty of the world,
not the human world.
Look — and without imagination, desire
nor dream — directly
At the mountains and sea. Are they
from his poem "De Rerum Virtute"
N AT I O N A L
FOR THE ARTS
The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment
for the Arts designed to restore reading to the center of American
culture. Jeffers educational materials are made possible through
the generous support of the Poetry Foundation.
A great nation deserves great art.